Austrian journalist formally arrested in Turkey on political charges, lawyer says

An Austrian journalist detained in Turkey 10 days ago has been formally arrested on political charges, along with two Turkish citizens, their attorney told CNN on Friday.

(CNN) – An Austrian journalist detained in Turkey 10 days ago has been formally arrested on political charges, along with two Turkish citizens, their attorney told CNN on Friday.

Max Zirngast, Hatice Göz and Mithatcan Türetken are accused of being members of the communist organization TKP Kivilcim, according to the lawyer Tamer Dogan.

Zirngast, a left-wing Austrian journalist who lives in Ankara and has written critically about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was detained along with Göz and Türetken on September 11.

Zirngast was initially held for four days, and the detention was extended twice, according to Dogan. At a hearing Thursday, Zirngast described himself as a socialist who defends “universal values,” according to Turkish media.

“I do not carry out activities on behalf of any illegal organization,” Zirngast said, according to reports.

Referring to Zirngast’s arrest, Dogan said that “there is no activity he was engaged in that requires arrest” and accused the Turkish authorities of making “absurd” allegations. He added he was in touch with Austrian authorities.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

Dozens of journalists, including foreign reporters, have been imprisoned without trial in Turkey on terror charges since a failed coup attempt in 2016, according to reports. Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Zirngast’s detention was first announced by Austrian magazine re:volt, which has published work by the journalist. The Jacobin, another magazine to which Zirngast has contributed, described his detainment last week as “an appalling abridgment of democratic rights.”

Rubina Möhring, president of Reporters Without Borders Austria, said in a statement last week that Zirngast’s detention was to be condemned “in the strongest terms.”

“Different political opinions should not be the basis for arrests or intimidation. But that is happening increasingly in Turkey,” she said.